DVD Review: The Last Exorcism Part II (2013)

The Last Exorcism Part II DVD CoverDistributor: StudioCanal

BBFC Classification: 15

Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly

Starring: Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark, David Jensen, Tarra Riggs, Muse Watson, Louis Herthum

2010’s The Last Exorcism was a fairly divisive film, with some people praising its documentary-style presentation, likeable performances and horrific imagery, whilst others criticised it for falling short of expectation and having a confusing ending that didn’t clarify any of the film’s preceding events. However you feel about it, the fact that the filmmakers went out of their way to create a different spin on the somewhat saturated possession format is to be commended and although the ending wasn’t quite the conclusive full-stop on the story that the film warranted, it at least made you think about and question what you had just seen. The Last Exorcism Part II – which is a very weird title when you think about it – will also make you question what you have seen, albeit in a very different way.

The film begins with a catatonic Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) being taken to a hospital after she was found hiding in a couple’s apartment. She is moved into a halfway house for young girls and begins to put her life back together again, getting a job as a chambermaid and gaining the attention of a local boy called Chris (Spencer Treat Clark). However, things aren’t quite back to normal as Nell  suspects she is being watched and begins to have visits from her father Louis (Louis Herthum), whom she thought had died at the hands of the cult in the previous film.

Eventually things start to escalate until Nell isn’t sure what is real and what isn’t, and it becomes apparent that the demon that tried to possess her before is back. She receives help from Cecile (Tarra Riggs), a nurse who treated her at the hospital and who has been following her, and a pair of mysterious men who are part of an organisation called The Order of the Right Hand, but are they strong enough to defeat the demon Abalam and help save Nell?

Despite the slightly muddled ending of the first film it left very little open in terms of continuing the story and The Last Exorcism Part II confirms that very thing in the fact that there is very little in terms of plot, direction, originality or entertainment going on. To start with, Nell’s fate in the first film was never conclusively shown so for all intents and purposes she is still alive, but just who are the couple whose home she has apparently just decided to invade and what part do they play in the overall scheme of things? None at all, apparently.

From there on in the film does begin to build things up a little with Nell going to the home for girls and forming new relationships with the girls in her dorm and with Frank (Muse Watson), the owner of the facility. During these scenes Ashely Bell really sells Nell as a sympathetic character who has been through a lot and just wants a normal life; the scene where she listens to rock music for what appears to be the first time with her new friend Gwen (Julia Garner) is truly heartwarming.

But somewhere shortly after that the film just stops being even remotely (and it is remote) interesting and meanders to a shambolic and almost embarrassing ending, with a vague attempt at an exorcism-type ritual shoehorned in just to justify the mystifying title shortly before the hilarious final shots that seem to come straight out of X-Men or some other superpower-based fantasy.

Having the film shot in the standard format rather than in the first-person found footage way takes away from the ‘realism’ that made the first film so creepy, meaning that we now get bogged down with some really quite poor CGI effects that may have looked good in the early part of the last decade but by today’s standards just look cartoonish. Add to that some ineffective jump scares, a laughable attempt to address the question as to whether Nell is imagining it all or not – by which time you probably won’t care either way – and some underwritten, generic and very forgettable supporting characters and The Last Exorcism Part II has even less going for it than it probably did at the pitching ideas stage.

So are there any redeeming features that are worth giving the film a go for? Well, Ashley Bell proves to be an even more likeable screen presence than she was in the first film and, despite not being on-screen very much, Muse Watson is something of a rational and calming presence. Had they given him more to do than just tell Nell that what happened to her wasn’t real then there may be more good things to say but, as it is, the film lacks an energetic and relatable performance like that of Patrick Fabian as Cotton Marcus in the first film, which again comes back to the idea of realism and keeping things grounded.

It goes without saying that The Last Exorcism Part II is a film that nobody wanted, needed or asked for (except producer Eli Roth, most probably) and given the ending of the first film it was unlikely that even the best scriptwriters in the world could have come up with enough good material to fashion a solid story. If you were one of the people who saw The Last Exorcism and hated it then this isn’t going to rectify anything that you didn’t like before, and if you saw it and liked it then you’re probably best to leave it there as this flaccid cash-in is unlikely to find favour with anyone looking for a genuinely creepy horror movie experience.

The Last Exorcism Part II

Special Features: Interview with producer Eli Roth, theatrical trailer, The Story So Far featurette, Nell’s Story featurette, Shooting in New Orleans featurette.

UK Release Date: 30th September 2013

StudioCanal – Website

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